…wherein I release my inner 12-year-old boy.
After about six months of constant pain in my lower left abdominal
region and being passed from my internist to my gynecologist and back
to my internist, I finally landed on the exam table of a
gastroenterologist hearing the words I knew I would hear, but words I
dreaded hearing nonetheless.
You need a colonoscopy.
Before the words even left his lips, I stood up and turned toward the
door. “You know, that’s ok,” I told the doctor. “I’m sure whatever it
is will work itself out and it doesn’t really hurt that bad anyway.
I’m really just being a baby. So thank you. It was very nice to meet
you. I’ll show myself out and I promise to say nice things about you
on the satisfaction survey.”
“Hold on, hold on,” the doctor said. “I promise you, 100%, there will
be no pain. Don’t you want to find out what is going on?”
What do you do for a living, he asked. After I told him I was a
journalist and everything he said would be on the record by the way,
he said, “You will be heavily sedated and so far in La-La Land that
you will be interviewing Bill Clinton on the beach in Jamaica.”
Screw the colonoscopy, that sounded like a fun Friday night.
I finally agreed to get the colonoscopy but told him they had better be selling Mai Tais on that Jamaican beach. But not cigars.
When you hear that the worst part of a colonoscopy is the prep before
the colonoscopy – believe it. The thing that I didn’t understand,
however, was just how bad the prep actually is. Let’s just say I think
remnants of my mother’s breast milk that I consumed 38 years ago and
everything I have put in my mouth since then made its way out during
this prep period.
With a colon clean as a whistle, I checked into the hospital Wednesday
morning. After I changed into my backless gown and settled in under
the covers of my hospital bed, a young, charming male nurse came in
to finish my paperwork and go over last-minute details. He wanted me
to know that after the procedure my belly would feel bloated because
it’s going to be full of gas. And that gas will need to be released, he said.
“I know this can be an uncomfortable and embarrassing thing for most
people under normal circumstances, but it really is important you let it all out. It’s just something that needs to happen so don’t feel weird about it.”
“So what you’re saying is, this is the only place passing gas is
not only socially acceptable, but expected,” I said. “Yes, that’s right,” he said with a laugh.
Just then I heard a female nurse tending to another patient on the
other side of the dividing curtain. She decided to keep it even more real.
“You really need to just let out a big fart. You can’t go home until you fart for me.”
Her patient apparently *got* it and I soon heard the biggest, baddest,
loudest fart I have ever heard in my life. I’m pretty sure the curtain
blew toward me.
And it kept coming.
From every corner of the GI lab, another and then another verse of the
flatulence symphony was played. I have this knack for thinking of
scenes from Blazing Saddles at random moments. This one was easy.
I also have this knack for getting the giggles at the most inopportune
times. But how could you not giggle at a time like this, especially while pumped up on Valium? I put my face in my hands, afraid the nurse would walk in and I would have to explain that, yes I am, indeed, a health care journalist and should be more mature than this, but the 12-year-old boy in me cannot help myself. Farts are funny!!
I wondered how long it took the nurses before they stopped giggling at
work every day. And do they go out with co-workers and talk about
their patients’ gas passing over beer? And, oh my god! Are they going to
talk about MY gas during happy hour tonight?! I really don’t want
this charming male nurse rubbing my back later, telling me to let it
all out, only to describe it in great detail to his work buddies over a game
of pool at the neighborhood tavern later.
The procedure itself was, well … I don’t remember. I remember
someone telling me I would start to feel sleepy soon and the next
thing I remember, I was being told I could change back into my street clothes. Luckily I was too stoned to know if I was “releasing the gas” and too stoned to care. I also don’t remember being on the beaches of Jamaica interviewing Bill Clinton. But, it’s just as well. While it may be socially acceptable to pass gas in a GI lab, I’m pretty sure it’s frowned upon in the company of an ex-president.
Turns out, my diagnosis was nothing too serious. I was told to increase my
fiber intake. Fiber. Hmmm…Those gastroenterologists really love making their patients fart, don’t they?